The Back Nine comes at you after a Rainsville Saturday that put a damper on the expectations of Gator fans who were so fired up a week earlier. It was a nice Sunday, though.
10. Being out and about on Sunday allowed my wife and I to run into many people dealing with the loss to Kentucky and they were unanimous in their feelings that they were not shocked Florida lost. They just didn’t see it coming the way that it did. We all thought Kentucky might control the line of scrimmage the way Utah did or that Will Levis would dominate with his passing. That’s how Florida could lose. What nobody saw coming was a historically bad performance by Anthony Richardson. Stats are for losers and assistant coaches, Steve Spurrier once told me, but this one tells the story of the game – Florida averaged 4.3 yards per play against Kentucky.
11. But when Florida went up 16-7, the Gators could have run on every play from that point on and won the game because the Wildcats scored 14 points on two interceptions basically. There was certainly evidence that – despite Richardson saying “Physically, I was fine,” he took a low hit from blitzing defensive back Jalen Geiger early in the second quarter and was hobbling to the line of scrimmage. It was almost identical to the hit Trey Dean was penalized for, but this isn’t about the officials. You have to play around bad calls or a lack of them (Kentucky had one penalty for five yards). Whether the Florida quarterback was hesitating to run because of the ankle or not, the real culprit here was the Kentucky defense.
12. Because the Wildcats had a full game’s worth of tape to watch Richardson in a Billy Napier offense, something Utah did not have. That’s why Jordan Wright was in perfect position to intercept the first pass and Keidron Smith was reading the quarterback and letting the receiver run by him on his pick-six. There was also a play very late in the game when Florida had a third-and-3 and AR stuck it in the belly of Trevor Etienne and I was thinking, “Pull it and run around the end.” But he did not and Etienne was stuffed.
13. It was Game Two of what I believe will be a long run for Napier and some day we may look back as it being the worst game he has ever called. I keep waiting for two things:
* Like any kind of gadget play. I know he’s trying to get the team to run a new offense, but one reverse would not kill him.
* A game without a crucial holding penalty on the kickoff team. Of Florida’s 10 penalties in two games, three have been for holding on the kickoffs by three different players. This one came after Florida went up 16-7 and backed the Gators up to the 20-yard line. A better return and no holding should have set Florida up with ideal field position to go for the jugular.
14. It was a crazy Saturday in college football that saw Bryce Young make a Heisman move and the Sun Belt dominate and Kansas win and cats and dogs living together. Texas lost and went from unranked to ranked. Alabama won on the road and lost the top spot in the polls. Three Power 5 schools paid 4.2 million to Appy State, Georgia Southern and Marshall to be gimmees and all three lost. It is why we love the game so much.
15. Of course, Georgia Southern beat Nebraska as Clay Helton could finally show people he’s not as bad a coach as he showed at USC. Interesting that Nebraska chose to cut Frost loose (unlike Florida when Will Muschamp lost to Georgia Southern) when it could have waited another couple of weeks and saved $7.5 million. Dude, those Big 10 teams are so flush with money they could pay him off with loose change in the couch cushions.
16. The first Sunday of the NFL season is always one of my favorite days of the year because we get the Red Zone Channel for free and the games are usually pretty good. We were this close to having two tie games for the first time since 1973 and for a while there it seemed like nobody could make a kick. And now Dak Prescott is out for a month or so and T.J. Watt is out, but at least I got to see them play. I will see this – I’m not in a fantasy league this year and I enjoyed the games way more. But that’s just me.
17. So, it was a good day for The Picks even if I missed the Florida game for the second week in a row. After a 4-1 week, Dr. Football is 6-4 for the season against the spread so we’re making money. On to this week:
* Florida is getting 24 points as it prepares for a third straight home game. It will be a diluted crowd, but I think Napier is going to get their attention this week. At the same time, the combination of injuries and Florida’s lack of desire so far to go after big plays makes me think the Bulls will cover.
* Georgia is a 24.5-point favorite at South Carolina and the Bulldogs will likely blow through the early excitement of the crowd and show Spencer Rattler what the best team in the SEC looks like up close.
* Penn State is a 3-point favorite at Auburn and I have seen nothing out of Bryan Harsin that makes me believe he will be Auburn’s coach at the end of the year. That’s why I am taking Auburn and the points. College football, man.
* Mississippi State is a 3-point favorite at LSU which says a lot about LSU. Unless the guy playing quarterback for the Tigers is that fan who wandered out on the field DURING PLAY at the last game, I think LSU wins outright.
* Texas A&M lost to Appy State last week and is still a 5.5-point favorite at home against Miami. Easiest bet of the week. The Aggies are frauds. The Canes are not. Give me Miami and the points all day.
18. I did make it to the press box for the first time since the 2020 Kentucky game and it was awesome to be up there although I forgot how it could pass for a NASCAR wind tunnel. Here’s today’s playlist:
* “Some of Us Are Brave” by Danielle Ponder.
*”It’s So Hard to Hold on” by Trampled By Turtles.
* And for an old one, “Along Comes Mary” by the Association.